Liberty Hill Snaps Carthage’s 40-Game Winning Streak, 44-41
CYPRESS -- It's not often Carthage has reason to hang its head.
The last time the Bulldogs lost a game, Donald Trump was not yet president. That changed Friday night when Liberty Hill handed the Bulldogs a 44-41 loss in a 4A D-II state semifinal game at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium.
It was the first loss for Carthage, which previously held the state's longest-active winning streak at 40 games, since Oct. 7, 2016.
Scott Surratt, the Bulldogs' coach, was calm after the game. He made his rounds, comforting players, many of whom were tasting defeat for the first time in their high school careers.
“You don’t ever think about the run until its over," Surratt said. "It’ll hit us. To put it in perspective, winning 40 games in a row is like four regular seasons going undefeated. Somebody told me before the game that there were only 11 programs that have ever won 40 in a row in the history of Texas high school football. I congratulated the seniors and said, ‘Don’t point any fingers. It was my fault tonight.’ It’s gonna sting, but we’re proud of our program for 40 in a row and a 14-win season.
"But it never was going to be enough unless we were holding that trophy next week.”
Carthage had its chances to win. Most notably, quarterback Gunner Capps hit Kel Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass -- his third TD reception of the evening -- with 58 seconds left. That trimmed the Panther lead down to 44-41 and made an onside kick a necessity.
Luis Piedra lined up for the kick, but Alberto Garcia darted in at the last moment in attempt to catch Liberty Hill off guard. Garcia kicked the ball to the right, and it took an unlucky bounce into the hands of a Panther player. Liberty Hill then ran out the clock.
Liberty Hill used its unique offense to grind away at the Bulldogs all game. The Panthers rarely passed, gaining 499 yards on the ground. The final scoring drive took a little more than three minutes off the clock, as Kyle Harrison rushed 19 yards for the touchdown to put the Panthers up two possessions with two minutes remaining.
“You don’t ever see (that offense)," Surratt said. "Pleasant Grove is completely different. We prepared well, but they’re tough. They’re not gonna tackle themselves, that’s for sure. We missed a lot of tackles. They’ve got a really good football team and we struggled offensively at times. If we didn’t struggle offensively, I think we would have won the game.”
The wind reached at least 10 miles per hour, making throws Capps could usually make difficult. Receivers also dropped passes, as the normally accurate Capps completed only 46.5 percent of his passes.
“We couldn’t throw the ball deep," Surratt said. "The ball was moving too much. We were open, we just couldn’t hit them. The hardest thing on a quarterback and receivers is the wind. I think that’s the main reason we were missing (the deep ball). We had to quit calling them.”
Carthage's fourth quarter comeback effort was magnificent. Williams caught three touchdowns in the quarter and finished with 75 yards receiving. His first touchdown catch, a 22-yarder, came with 11:47 remaining and cut the Panther lead down to 3.
Unfortunately, the Carthage defense couldn't seem to come up with a stop. Outside of a forced fumble and recovery from Stephen Darden with a little more than six minutes left, the Panthers did what they wanted.
“Obviously, we made a lot of mistakes," Surratt said. "You can’t make mistakes against a team like Liberty Hill. I’m not making excuses whatsoever. Defensively, I think we got a stop or two. We were hoping for four or five. Just didn’t execute well enough."
Liberty Hill advances to the 4A Division I state championship game, where it will face Waco La Vega (13-2) at 3 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Liberty Hill 44, Carthage 41
Class 4A Division I Semifinal
At Cy-Fair FCU Stadium, Cypress
Liberty Hill 7 10 13 14 -- 44
Carthage 6 6 7 22 – 41
CAR—Kelvontay Dixon 56 pass from Gunner Capps (kick failed), 10:17.
LH—Blake Simpson 32 run (Mason Shipley kick), 1:59.
LH—Kyle Harrison 46 run (Shipley kick), 10:32.
CAR—Mason Courtney 2 run (two-point failed), 5:44.
LH—Shipley 27 field goal, 0:00.
LH—Jacob Clearley 1 run (Shipley kick), 9:08.
CAR—Rayvon Ingram 1 run (Luis Piedra kick), 6:39.
LH—Kristian Taggert 53 run (kick failed), 1:32.
CAR—Kel Williams 22 pass from Capps (two-point good Capps to Kaden Holcomb), 11:47.
LH—Simpson 17 run (Shipley kick), 9:48.
CAR—Williams 8 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), 5:34.
LH—Harrison 19 run (Shipley kick), 2:04.
CAR—Williams 5 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), 0:58.
First Downs 22 28
Total Yards 542 498
Rushes-Yards 61-499 29-156
Passing Yards 43 342
Comp.-Att.-Int. 3-4-0 20-43-1
Punts-Avg. 2-42.0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 11-103 4-35
RUSHING—Liberty Hill, Blake Simpson 21-187, Kyle Harrison 20-155, Kristian Taggert 11-93, Jacob Clearley 7-67. Carthage, Tucker Smith 14-112, Mason Courtney 7-30, Kelvontay Dixon 1-12, Rayvon Ingram 1-1.
PASSING—Liberty Hill, Clearley 3-4-0--43. Carthage, Capps 20-43-1--342.
RECEIVING—Liberty Hill, Harrison 2-23, Cole McWilliams 1-20. Carthage, Kaden Holcomb 4-112, Dixon 6-102, Kel Williams 6-75, Tucker Smith 2-41.